How ATV Winches Work

Using ATV Winches

Using a winch is simple. On the end of the winch's line is a hook. Many winch hooks have a self-locking mechanism on the end that prevents the hook from slipping off during winch operation. To use the winch, use the controls to turn the drum in reverse so that it feeds line out. Feed out enough line to connect the end to your anchor point (or other vehicle if you're using your own ATV as an anchor point). Secure the end of the line around the anchor or vehicle. Try to establish a clear line between the anchor and the winch.

Once the line is secure, you can engage the winch to begin pulling in the line. The most important thing to remember when using a winch is to be safe. Be careful not to stand too close to the winch, particularly if you're wearing loose clothing. The winch is a powerful piece of machinery and could cause a severe injury if you were to get caught in it.

You should also avoid walking over or standing near the line as the winch creates tension. A worn line may snap and it could injure you if you're in the way. Depending on the situation, you might need to sit in the ATV's driver seat while operating the winch. Some ATV winches come with a remote control, allowing you to stand out of harm's way while operating the winch.

Another thing to keep in mind is that manufacturers design winches to pull cable along a horizontal plane that is more or less parallel to the ground. You should never use a winch as a hoist to lift an object vertically. Doing so could cause damage to your vehicle or the winch, or could cause the line to snap.

Remember to inspect your ATV before taking it out for a ride. This applies to your entire vehicle, winch included. Who knows? You may spot something that needs to be replaced or repaired before it becomes a real problem.

With a little caution and patience, you'll free your ATV -- or your friend's vehicle -- from being stuck in no time.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • ATV Connection Magazine Staff. "Winching it Up." ATV Connection Magazine. 2007. (Nov. 11, 2009)
  • AutoAnything. "Winches Research Guide." 2009. (Nov. 12, 2009)
  • "Installing a Vehicle Mounted Electrical Winch." July 26, 2006. (Nov. 12, 2009)
  • ORC Staff. "All About Winches." Dec. 1, 2005. (Nov. 12, 2009)
  • Taylor, Jesse. "Choosing an ATV Winch." 2009. (Nov. 12, 2009)
  • TonyD. "Gorilla Winch Installation." ATV Source. 2009. (Nov. 12, 2009)